Snickers & Twix – 12 years

Last year at this time I posted about Twix’s “episode” and I didn’t think he was going to make it. Let alone make it to his next birthday. He lost a lot of weight. He won’t let me weigh him so I’m not sure what he actually weights, but he probably lost 10 lbs.

His biggest problem now is that he doesn’t walk very well anymore. He gets around just fine, but he swings his hips and flaps his feet in a weird way. Still devours his food. Still takes naps on my lap. Still insists I use both hands when scrubbing his face. Still “mushes” my stomach. His toy-playing time is reduced to a minute or two, but he still loves his toys and play-time.

Happy twelfth birthday boys! Here’s to many, many more!!

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Snickers & Twix – 11 years

Eleven years ago, I took on an enormous challenge. Not only did I move out on my own, but I took on two furry fuzz-balls with four paws, endless energy and the sweetest little faces.

I had just moved out of my parent’s house into a loft apartment downtown. I wasn’t making much but I was determined to stay independent and self-reliant and do as much on my own as I could. I had just returned from lunch one day and a co-worker told me to go check out someone’s desk. Without any more explanation, I walked down to their desk and saw an orange ball of fur sitting in their lap. I immediately AWWWWWWWWed and asked who he belonged to. He was up for adoption.

I called the owner and said “I want to take him home today!” She said she wanted to make sure I was serious because he had been to four other homes so far and no one could keep him. I explained I had had cats as pets all of my life (literally…there are pictures of me as a newborn with a cat in my crib because he thought my parents bought the crib for him), and knew how to take care of them. She reluctantly said OK, but said she wanted updates and to be honest and tell her if I couldn’t keep him because she wanted him to go to a good home. That was on a Thursday.

By Sunday, I called the owner and explained to her I now knew why other people couldn’t keep him, he was a TERROR! He was a good salesman though, being all cute and cuddly for the first few hours. This was his very first picture.

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I had gone downstairs to take the trash out and he hopped up on the back of the couch, all by himself, and curled up into the absolute cutest thing of all time! But later that night…oh what a change! He was trying to climb into the fridge every time I opened it, tried to climb on the bookshelf, tried to climb up my leg! What a handful! He was such a little sneaky bugger…one second he would be curled up all cute and sweet, and the next minute he was hanging upside down on the couch! Sneaky turd turned into “Snickers.”

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When I called the owner, she heard in my voice what she had heard in the others’, exasperation. But instead of saying I wanted to return him, I asked if there were any other kittens left in the liter. He was clearly a very social kitten and needed a friend to keep him company. Excitedly, she said YES, there was one left! However, she had already promised him to someone else. But after a breath, she said, “but, they were liter mates and I would much rather them be together.”

We agreed to meet at the PetSmart on Monday after work. This new kitten was the runt of the liter, very timid, shaking even as I drove him home on my lap. He was so tiny in fact, that I called him Pixy on the way home. Pixy was a girly name though and didn’t quite fit him. Don’t ask how, but by the time we got home, Pixy and turned into Twixy, and I reunited Snickers with his buddy “Twix.”

Snickers was SO excited he was jumping on Twix, biting his neck, pawing at his face. Twix was very, very scared. He hid behind the couch for several hours, exhausted. Eventually, he came out and sniffed out his new joint. Snickers did what Snickers did best and showed him all of the fun trouble they could get into, together. And that’s just what they did.

Fast forward ten years and eleven months.

If you are a parent to animals, you know that when they get older, the barf factor increases. I had woken up every morning for a week to vomit in the hallway or living room. I thought it was Snickers and his urinary blockage issues (fiber…a tiny amount of Benefiber in wet food once a day does wonders!). But it turns out it was Twix. I know that because on a Wednesday night, I watched him violently throw up. After that, he jumped up on the couch with me and, without a better way of explaining it, stumbled around like he was drunk. I laughed at first because it was a silly sight to see. He wobbled to his dinner plate that night, gobbled it up as usual.

The next morning was the same, stumbling around, swaying and eventually falling over. I was at home waiting for the termite inspector (when it rains, it pours), so I decided to call the vet. He didn’t have any appointments that day, but could see me first thing Friday morning. I tried to keep Twix calm and still until then.

Head or brain trauma usually appears as a symptom in the eyes or a permanent head tilt but he didn’t appear to show those symptoms. Maybe he fell and hurt himself….my bed is taller than the average bed, so maybe he rolled off (he’s done it before, I’ve seen it), or when he jumped off, he landed on his feet the wrong way. The vet gave him a shot for inflammation and sent us on our way.

He seemed a tad bit better Friday and Saturday, although he was still wobbly. By Sunday, he started tipping the water bowl over. He used to do that as a kitten, he much preferred to lick the water off of the floor than from the bowl. I shook my head that he was just a trouble maker, darn cats!

Still unsteady and shaky, I started to hear him knock into things, like he had no control over his movements any more. By Thursday, he stopped eating. For Twix, my 18 lb. butterball turkey, that is very unusual and I knew something was very wrong.

We went back to the vet Friday morning. I had been doing research online all night about strokes and told the vet I think he might have had one, regardless of the lack of usual symptoms. Of course, when he’s at the vet, he can walk a pretty straight line without falling over (adrenaline maybe?) and his eyes don’t show the signs. Although he doesn’t blink or close them when a really bright light is flashed at them. “Maybe he went blind” the vet claims. There isn’t much to do for an animal that has suffered a brain trauma and the vet says he has never seen a cat recover. “It doesn’t look good.” They give him fluids under the skin to help with dehydration as well as a steroid injection and said if that didn’t help him want to eat, give them a call in the morning and they would fit me in.

He hadn’t been spending time with me since Thursday and I was beginning to think this was the end. He still didn’t want to eat and just wanted to sleep under the bed. Saturday morning came and he still didn’t want to eat.

I have a deck of tarot cards that I consult every once in a while. Normally when I ask a Yes or No question I get a Maybe as an answer. When I asked if it was his time to go, it was a definitive No. As a mother to a furry baby, the last thing I want is for him to be in pain. The vet said he probably couldn’t see, but that he was relatively healthy otherwise and that he wasn’t in pain. With that, I told the vet I wanted to take him home and keep hoping he would get better. The vet agreed, but wanted me to know the odds were not good that he would “get better.” They gave him more fluids, a shot for nausea, and gave me some steroid cream to rub on his ears.

He didn’t retreat to the bedroom right away, so I tried to see if he would eat his favorite treats. He really wanted to eat, he was salivating heavily, but just couldn’t figure out how to get it into his mouth. He would tilt his head too far to the side to effectively eat anything. So when he was tilting his head, I shoved a treat in. With that thought in mind, I had a small syringe from when Snickers had his issues. I mashed up food with enough water to make a broth and squirted it down his throat. He would turn his head and try to get away from me for this to be a permanent solution, but it made me feel better to know I had somewhat of a solution to get food into his system.

Sunday morning, I did the broth squirt several times again, against his will. I had fixed him a plate of wet food, as I always did, even though I had been throwing them away after several hours when he wouldn’t eat. But this morning was a turning point, I knew he had to eat on his own because neither one of us could keep up the hand feeding much longer. I did one more squirt then put the plate in front of his face. After pushing the clumps of food around for a few seconds with his nose, he finally opened his mouth, stuck out his tongue, and started licking the plate!!! I cried out in triumph as quietly as I could so as not to disturb him, then proceeded to sob uncontrollably as he slowly, but eventually, licked his plate clean.

The next couple of days we did the same routine, squirts of broth then the plate, but he still wasn’t drinking water. I tried the same technique and would squirt water down his throat with the syringe, then show him the water bowl. By Wednesday, he was pawing at the syringe and happily letting me squirt it. I would put it closer and closer to the water bowl until it was in it and so was his face. It took several tries, but he eventually stuck out his tongue and drank on his own.

If you have a cat and experience something similar, DO NOT GIVE UP! Do not let the vet tell you there is no hope of recovery. He eats on his own, drinks on his own, and has regained his eye sight back. He jumps up and takes naps on my lap, he even plays with his toys like he used to. Jumping up on the bed is still difficult for him, so I put a chair next to the bed to make it easier. He is still a little wobbly on the couch or bed, but I would say he is 98% back to normal.

If cats do have 9 lives, he used a few during this episode. I took him to the vet three times and two of those times I didn’t think he would be coming home with me. But I’m so glad he did so I could celebrate his, and Snickers’, 11th birthday.

Happy Birthday to my furry, fat, drooling, stinky, cuddly, purr machines!

Snow weekend Jan 2016

I think they said it snowed for almost 36 hours straight! Definitely the most snow I’ve seen in the last 10 years. And of course it had to happen on my birthday. Never fails. Since I moved to Virginia, my birthday has endured either snow, dangerous ice storms, or bitter cold.

But what can you do? Nothing but watch the snow fall and try and enjoy the beauty of it.

It started snowing January 22nd, but I apparently didn’t take any pictures that day. I think I was thinking it wasn’t going to amount to much. I was very wrong!

January 23rd – 10:00AM, 1:00PM, 4:00PM, 5:00PM & January 24th 10:00AM

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I had filled the bird feeder before it started snowing really hard and the birds did their best to dig through the snow to get the seeds. I will be picking up a hanging feeder just as soon as I can make my way to the bird store!

Twix looking out at the snow.

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Measured a hair over 13 inches on the deck.

I cleared the feeder and filled it back up before I started tunneling. The blue jays were very grateful.

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Digging my way out.

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Slowly making progress.

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I think this is the first time I’ve spent three straight days in my house due to snow. And I’ll more than likely spend a fourth. Not necessarily because of the snow, but because of the flat tire on my car and I don’t want to call AAA just yet when they are probably hauling cars out of ditches. Good fun!

Not really snow related, but Snickers was rolling around in a sun spot and just looked too cute!

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San Diego, CA Sept 2015

It was another homecoming trip to Southern California! I wasn’t born in San Diego, but darn close to it, about 60 miles north of it. I am drawn to the ocean and it is because I learned to walk on the sandy beaches. But more about that later.

We stayed at the Manchester Grand Hyatt and had a view of the bay. It looks like there is another hotel going up next door. The view probably won’t be the same three years from now.

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My camera has a good zoom and I was able to snap a couple of pictures of people enjoying the bay.

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Dinner the first night was at Cafe Sevilla in the Gaslamp Quarter district. I recommend taking a cab, it will be MUCH cheaper than paying for parking! I had empanadas and calamari. I could have done without the empanadas but the calamari was good. Folks had the paella and they both said they had had better. The sangria was lacking authenticity too. Overall, not a bad experience, but I guess we got the best of what a touristy restaurant has to offer. I did enjoy the ambiance though.

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Our first full day entailed a ferry ride to Catalina Island. In the 18+ years I lived in SoCal, I never went, as an adult anyway. There is debate amongst my parents whether they took me when I was a child. Even if they did I didn’t remember it so I was excited to see it now!

We got to the Dana Point harbor early so I had time to take some pictures. This was a house overlooking the harbor, I bet they have spectacular views!

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My favorite sound of all time is a cat purring. My very close second favorite sound is that of a sea lion barking. I heard that unmistakable sound and immediately starting scanning the water. There were a couple of small sea lions swimming around the old boat and I managed to snap one or two pictures of their heads bobbing through the water.

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Our boat arrived and we headed out to sea with a fond farewell from a sea lion and cormorants.

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Normally I can get pretty good shots through windows, but these windows had a thick coat of salt water, hence the strange tint that I was unable to correct correctly in Photoshop on this house literally clinging to the cliff’s edge.

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 It was about an hour and a half ride to Avalon, one of only two places to dock on the island.

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One of the first things we did was take a bus tour of the island. I’ve been on tours with really good tour guides, some really funny guides, and some not so good guides. This tour guide/bus driver was in a category all her own. She was very surly, very sarcastic, knew it and didn’t care! She honked at several golf carts and even blocked one from leaving the golf course because it was driving somewhere it wasn’t supposed to and the sheriff was on his way! It was a bumpy ride (in more ways than one), but the views were unbelievable!

I guess I should back up and talk about the golf carts. Because it’s an island and the only way there is by boat or helicopter, there aren’t a lot of cars on the island, but there are plenty of golf carts. If you are a resident, there is a 14 year waiting period to bring your car to the island, hence the golf carts! Or, if you must have a car, an autoette is another option.

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 Most of the rest of the “historical” stuff our guide talked about we either couldn’t understand because she talked so fast, or her microphone was crackling. So we just laughed where we thought appropriate and enjoyed the views.

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I have no idea what kind of bones (are they bones?) are hanging from this dead tree, but I thought it was interesting/creepy.

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I did manage to hear that this used to be a casino and I think I heard it has the largest round ballroom.

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We sputtered up the hill and that’s where the views got REALLY good!

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The town is, overall, pretty touristy, but it’s cute.

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We had a quick lunch at the Avalon Grille, I had the ahi tuna burger and it was AMAZING!

Our next adventure was a glass bottom boat tour and the views from the pier were spectacular too.

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The water was so clear and blue! We didn’t see a ton of fish on the glass bottom boat tour, other than the ones that showed up for the fish food the guide dumped in the water.

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On the way back from the feeding grounds, we were allowed to stand up and I got some good shots of the cove/bay/marina (I’m not a nautical person, I don’t know the difference).

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Did I mention it was “touristy?”

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After the boat tour we had some time to kill before the ferry arrived to take us back to Dana Point so I walked around, took some pictures, and bought a souvenir.

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Catalina is home to a lot of Garibaldi fish, the official state fish of California. I thought they were buoys because they weren’t moving much, but those little orange things are fish!

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The ride back was pretty with the sun setting behind us. The captain stopped the boat at one point for a couple of whales, but all we saw was a tail and I wasn’t quick enough with the camera so I had to settle with pictures of the clouds and water.

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The next day was Roger’s Gardens in Newport Beach and dinner in Laguna. But we stopped in San Clemente on the way up. Man oh man is that a beautiful place! The story goes that I learned to walk on the beach. Not the one that we stopped at, but very close by. It certainly felt like home!

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Dinner was at The Cliffs and it was a nice experience. I had the halibut and it was cooked perfectly! There was a lot of cloud cover so there wasn’t much of a sunset, but the view was still very nice.

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The next morning I got up and drove to Tourmaline Surf Park. Yes, I was the only one not wearing a wet suit, but I didn’t care. I always forget how much nicer the Pacific Ocean is compared to the Atlantic. The water is super clear, the sand is flat, and there aren’t massive amounts of tiny, broken shells to cut your feet on! The only downside is the seaweed. Once you get past the panic and terror that there is a fish or shark swimming past your leg, the water is wonderful!

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We were going to drive up to Newport Beach in the afternoon, but as the driver during the whole vacation, I decided I didn’t want to drive an hour and a half up north, through rush hour traffic again, so we decided to drive around and see some of the sites San Diego had to offer.

We started at the Cabrillo National Monument.

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This was our hotel.

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Pelicans, sea lions, and boats.

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Coronado bridge and Hotel Del.

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As distorted as this fully zoomed in shot is, it kind of reminds me of a painting.

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The great big blue.

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We then drove to Sunset Cliffs, one of my favorite places in San Diego.

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Dinner was at an old favorite, Claim Jumper. No view, it wasn’t on the beach, but my chicken tenders and fries were good. We didn’t order a slice of their famous chocolate motherload cake, but we did get a slice of Italian lemon cake. I was stuffed! Even though dinner wasn’t on the beach, we still managed to catch the sunset on the way back to the hotel.

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Our last day in San Diego was pretty low-key. We had lunch then went across the street to Seaport Village and boarded a “seal” for a land and sea tour of San Diego. The seal is the cousin to the “duck,” which is a converted military vehicle. The seal was built specifically for touring by land, then by sea ;-)

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There were a ton of signs that said DO NOT FEED THE BIRDS but our captain did anyway.

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I thought there would be more of a land tour, but it was more of a tour of the bay, which turned out just fine because we saw lots of seals!

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A bird took a ride on the roof.

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So this is really cool. This is the Shipboard Antenna Model Range, part of the Navy Electronics Lab. When the Navy builds a new ship, they first build a scale model of it, put it under this arch, it spins around, does some neat electrical or magnetic magic to it, and they are able to pinpoint where the antennas should go on the ship.

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Another “seal.”

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The Navy uses this facility to train dolphins and sea lions for several different types of under water salvage and bomb detection exercises.

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Other naval boats and aircraft.

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Crazy lady dancing.

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Skyline and more boats.

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After we exited the water, the captain pulled over to check the wheels for seaweed and sure enough, there was some attached!

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Dinner was at the Pacific Coast Grill in Cardiff-by-the-Sea. I had the Baja wedge salad and the Cardiff Reef sushi roll and they were both delicious!

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I am DEFINITELY going swimming here the next time I’m in San Diego!

The sunset on our last night was the best one yet!

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The clouds sort of made the sun look like a face.

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I happened to be on the correct side of the plane as we took off and got some awesome aerial shots.

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It was another wonderful vacation in San Diego! Can’t wait to go back home!